Construction company owner embraces sobriety with Joy Hour

Every Wednesday from 3:30 to 7 p.m., something powerful rocks the offices of Considerate Contracting at 4146 B Place Northwest, northeast of Emerald Downs.

Whole buncha kids in bouncy houses, that is, a few guys in their 70s or 80s, sitting down to games of chess with upstarts as young as 7, along with grown-ups and kids shooting hoops, coaxing pool balls into pockets, pitching into water fights, batting pingpong balls back and forth, even playing air hockey.

Sounds like fun.

Yet, notes Tom Lyman, owner of Considerate Contracting, and the man who got what he calls Joy Hour going last March — not a drop of booze, no lines of cocaine, no jangling cell phones, no soul-and-time-sucking computer screens, no one rattling on about politics, and no one pushing a business agenda or religion to be found anywhere.

Just three hours entirely dedicated to the fantastic pursuit of having a good time by simply basking in the company of other human beings without drugs or alcohol. Imagine that.

“A lot of it feels like happy hour, but you have food, baristas and smoothies and coffee, free music, food and no alcohol or drugs,” Lyman said.

Kind of an old-fashioned idea, yes, but one that needs to come into fashion again, said Lyman.

Behind all the fun is a serious purpose: to point people away from using drugs or alcohol or whatever their addiction might be and point them back to the time-honored path of connecting with other human beings.

“It’s in the infant stage,” Lyman said of Joy Hour. “At the same time, more than 3,000 people have come through the doors since March. It’s important enough for some people that they are willing to drive an hour and a half out of their way to come.”

Indeed, Joy Hour is working out so well, Lyman said, he plans to set up similar get-togethers in surrounding communities.

Lyman is not one of those guys whom others instinctively mistrust and disparage, those Dudley Do-Rights of the world who ride in on their white horses to save the day. He’s been there, battling his own addictions for more than 20 years.

Lyman grew up in “a church school setting,” he said, living “kind of a sheltered life” in the Bellevue-Issaquah area. His late father, Steve, owned his own construction company.

He moved away from home when he was 18 years old just after graduation and began working full time, becoming, he said, “a construction workaholic” for years to come.

“There were phases, when I was single and without a wife or kids, when that was not a problem, and is actually a good thing for young men to do,” Lyman said. “But when I left home, I moved in with a buddy into kind of a party house. Some of the people there ended up partying so much they lost their jobs. My thing between 17 and 21 was just smoke weed after work, sleep, eat, get up and go to work again.”

Lyman kicked the weed and booze for the first time when he was 22 years old and got his life “back in focus with God, community and church.” And in that golden period, he met his future wife, Lana, a Mississippi girl, at a convention in Texas.

Once the couple were married, they served as youth leaders at what is today Eastside Apostolic Church.

But about six years ago, Lyman — by then a business owner with three kids — began to struggle with alcohol again.

Outwardly, he seemed to have everything together, and he convinced even himself that such was the case. But it was an illusion. It took him some time to figure the truth out, but he was killing himself.

“I’m faking it, I’m making it, I’m lying and I’m hiding an alcohol addiction and I’ve turned to cocaine,” he said. “I am a functional addict for about six years. There’s not a day that went by that I didn’t have whiskey or cocaine in my pocket, my car.

“The irony is my best year ever was my worst year ever. The business was doing well, and in that span I accumulated stuff, extra cars, even a boat I didn’t use that was sitting at Lake Washington. I was trying to fill a void that can only be filled by a higher power and the life I had with my wife and kids,” Lyman said.

When his wife informed him one night that she was about to leave, he couldn’t believe his ears.

“It’s not that bad, is it?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” she answered.

The very real possibility of losing what mattered most to him in this life propelled him to seek in-patient treatment two and a half years ago. The treatment was effective for about a year, but then he started drinking again.

In December 2021, he checked himself into Lakeside of Auburn.

“I’ll never forget one of those first classes. It was about connection versus isolation. I started thinking about all the nights in my shop, and how all the times I was by myself was when I usually used the alcohol. My wife has never drunk in her life.”

For some reason, all that connection versus isolation stuff, he said, stuck with him.

As of this week, Lyman said, he is more than nine and a half months into sobriety. In contrast to the past, he said, he goes to counseling twice a week, does Celebrate Recovery every week, attends church twice a week and attends NA and AA meetings.

“But what I think is going to be key to my lifelong sobriety is service work. One of the things I learned in rehab was to do things for other people, which I’d always felt like I did. Last February I’m lying in bed one night, and I have this epiphany, of ‘Oh, my goodness, I have my wife, my kids, I’m sober and I’m sleeping good, and I have peace. This is working, I’m actually loving sobriety.”

Now he wants others to share that same feeling.